One of my favourite things about Instagram is being able to reach out to people around the world who are doing fun things within the world of queer & trans fitness.

I recently spoke with Asher Freeman, a non-binary personal trainer in Philadelphia, about their experience – both personally as someone who is into fitness and as someone who works in the industry .

On their Insta profile, Asher describes themselves as a ‘Philly-based non-binary personal trainer determined to smash white supremacist, fatphobic, cisnormative, and ableist myths about our health and bodies.’

When I asked Asher about what motivated them to get into fitness, both for themselves and also as a career, they had this to say:

“When I came out as trans and was finally ready to start exploring what it felt like to live inside of my body rather than completely detached from it, I looked for a trans personal trainer to teach me how to lift weights. My search came up with very few results. After six sessions with the one trans trainer I could afford, they decided to change careers, and I was on my own.

During the next several years, I educated myself about weightlifting and gradually started understanding what it meant to feel embodied. Talking with friends about this growing passion, I realized that it wasn’t just trans people who struggle to find supportive and holistic fitness resources – it is people who have experienced trauma, fat people, people with disabilities, People of Color, cis women, and anyone else whose body is marginalized by white supremacy and patriarchy.

Today, about half of my clients are trans, but all of my clients can speak to ways in which dominant culture has kept them from feeling at home in their bodies. I love that my job is to remind people that our bodies belong to us, and we have the right to celebrate them as they are.”

We went on to talk about whether Asher works in a conventional gym, and how they feel about these kinds of environments:

“I work with clients both in a conventional gym and in spaces of my clients’ choosing (i.e. living rooms, city parks, and a cemetery to name a few), and I think there are incredible opportunities inside and outside of the gym.

The clients I meet outside of the gym usually seek me out, because traditional fitness spaces have failed them. We often enter the relationship with a similar goal of using fitness as a form of self care rather than punishment. However, at the gym where I work, the majority of members who approach me have goals that are deeply rooted in normative beauty standards (i.e. “My stomach is my problem area.”) I love getting to offer new narratives. I’m honest that it’s extremely challenging to lose weight through exercise but that exercise can make us healthier and stronger and increase our confidence and self esteem.

I remind people that the fitness industry upholds unrealistic beauty standards that have nothing to do with health with the idea that we’ll spend more money if we hate our bodies. Thus, it’s a revolutionary and anti-capitalist act to redefine what health and beauty mean for ourselves.”

When asked about what other people are doing in the Philadelphia area in regards to queer fitness, and what their own plans for the future are, Asher had this to say:

“I just moved to Philadelphia in November, so I’m still getting to know the scene here. I have met some awesome queer and trans people who do body work and healthcare as well as a couple of great queer personal trainers. Everyone has been welcoming and excited about collaboration.

There is a yoga studio and a Muay Thai gym that are both super queer spaces, but as far as I know, there aren’t any other gyms or studios that are explicitly queer or trans. I’m excited to begin a weekly queer and trans group fitness class next month. Otherwise, I’m just taking my business one step at a time as I get acquainted with my new home and learn more from folks who live here about what exists and what’s missing.”

Finally, I asked Asher about the workshops that they’re involved with:

“While interning at Sweet Momentum, a trans-owned and run fitness studio in Portland, Oregon, I co-developed a workshop for binding health and top surgery recovery. The workshop offers stretches and strengthening exercises to support the body while binding and after top surgery.

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We’ve now presented the workshop in multiple iterations. Last month, I had the privilege of co-facilitating this workshop over the internet for QUEERFLEX, a nonprofit gym in Edmonton, Canada. Next month, I’ll be co-facilitating an expanded version of this program with a local massage therapist in Philadelphia.”

Head to Instagram to show Asher some love and learn more about what they’re up to!

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